Ultimately, the objective of accrediting hotels and restaurants in Davao Region is to lure more Muslim tourists. To address the challenges on establishing a Halal eco-system in the perspective of tourism, the Department of Tourism initiated a two-day training and awareness on Halal experience and Halal food preparation last June 19 to 20 at Hijo Resorts in Tagum City.
Halal, an Arabic term literally meaning “permissible”, refers to a set of rules in Islam dictating permissible and forbidden activities.
With Islam as the world’s 2nd largest religion, the global halal product market is expected to grow to US$9.71 trillion by 2025, with Islamic finance as its largest sector, followed by food. Halal tourism alone is now pegged at US$177 billion and is expected to surge to US$273 billion by 2023.
To give participants, composed mostly of representatives of hotels, resorts, restaurants, tour operators, academe, and local government units, DOT invited several personalities to give them an overview of what Halal is and how it can be integrated in tourism.
One of the resource speakers was Zaidi Kassim, the Philippine director of Tourism Malaysia, tourism marketing and promotions arm of Malaysia national government. With more than 60% of the population adhering to the religion of Islam, the country pioneered and naturally leads in Halal tourism.
Malaysia gets the bulk of its Muslim tourists from Middle East, with Saudi Arabia as its top market. In 2018, around 33,000 Arab tourists visited Malaysia, up from 27,000 the previous year. Saudi tourists also spend the most when visiting Malaysia, at $257 per capita, which is more than what visitors from the UK, US or Australia spend.
To share their success story in Halal tourism, Kassim presented the basic requirements of Muslim tourists.
“As for any traveler, availability of food is basic need. When you travel to Malaysia, fastfoods and restaurants even street food stalls are all Halal-certified. This provides assurance that whatever we serve to our guests fulfills the Shariah law, which is a must for Muslims,” he said. Malaysia pioneered in setting up Halal standards and certification.
Prayer facilities are also a must since Muslims do their obligatory Salat, one of the pillars of Islam, 5 times a day.
“It must be easily available in airports, highways, rest service areas, theme parks, resorts, restaurants, and convention centers. You must also have Muslim-friendly hotels with at least one Halal certified kitchen,” he added.
Quiblat, signage that points to Mecca, must also be set on room ceilings while prayer mats or rugs and the Holy Quoran available in rooms.
During Ramadan, setting up of iftar buffet and sahoor (pre-dawn) menu, and providing shuttle service to take guests to mosques for their Terawih prayers also attract Muslim tourists.
In addition, Malaysia celebrates Islamic festivals and events, such as the International Quoran Recital, halal showcase, and Ramadan, and provide information on Islamic museums and galleries to lure tourists.
This has garnered Malaysia various accolades, including the Number 1 destination for Muslim Travellers by Crescent Rating, Best Holiday Destination in Ramadan by Crescent Rating and Astercard, and Most Developed Islamic Economy for Halal Travel by Thomson Reuters.
Indonesia, the country with the largest Muslim population and home to 12.7% of the world’s Muslims also shared their Halal tourism practices.
Vernon Prieto of Aneka Kartika, a Surabaya-based travel agency that launched their Islamic Experience tour packages during the recent Halal Expo in Davao City, also encourage the local stakeholders to come up with similar tours that can attract Muslim tourists.
“We understand that Philippines is a Christian country so you don’t need to strictly follow the Shariah law. At least, you observe the basics,” he said, referring to what Kassim presented.
According to Prieto, Halal destinations need to follow 4 criteria: access, communication, environment and services. To showcase their best practices in Halal tourism, Indonesia has designed 10 provinces as Halal- friendly, namely Lombok, Aceh, Jakarta, West Sumatera, West Java, Yogyakarta, Riau, East Java, and South Sulawesi.
“You must follow the principles of a Halal-friendly tourism by upholding the religious norms and cultural values, human rights, cultural diversity, and local knowledge, ” Prieto shared.
Halal tourism must also comply with the code of conduct of world tourism and international agreements in the field of tourism.
The Indonesian Ministry of Tourism collaborates with the Indonesian Ulama Council in determining Halal standards for tourism products with the aim of making Indonesia a friendly destination for Muslim tourists.
“If tour operators and tourism facilities are able to understand the market of Halal in general, it will not only benefit Muslims but all Filipinos. If the industry is able to understand how big and beneficial the market is, it will trickle down to all sectors,” said Ahmed Jeoffrey Datukan, Mindanao Developement Authority management officer focusing on Halal.
MinDa has created an all-inclusive Mindanao Halal ecosystem program for exportation of Mindanao’s agricultural products.
“We have to take on the challenges that the global halal market has provided us. This is a great opportunity for the region especially with the lauching of the direct flight to Doha, Qatar, giving us direct connectivity to the Middle East market,” said DOT Xl regional director Tanya Rabat Tan.
The 2-day event also showcased Halal food cooking demo and a B2B activity for the tour operators and tourism establishments.